As part of measures aimed at rejecting continuous stay of military junta at helm affairs in Myanmar, citizens began a general strike on Monday and businesses also shutdown in solidarity to oppose the military coup despite a threat from authorities that confrontation could cost lives.
This is coming as the country police also began dispersing protesters in the capital, Naypyitaw, in a move geared towards mitigating fatal clashes that could lead to deaths.
The new approach by the police followed several failed attempt by the junta to stop daily protests and a civil disobedience movement calling for the reversal of the Feb. 1 coup and release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi three weeks after seizing power.
There were protests in cities and towns across the country on Monday, from the northern hills on the border with China to the central plains, the Irrawaddy river delta and the southern panhandle.
Images posted on social media showed a police water cannon truck and numerous other vehicles closing in to break up a procession of chanting people in Naypyitaw, where the military is headquartered. As the protesters scattered, police on foot chased them, wrestling several to the ground.
“They’re chasing and arresting us. We’re just protesting peacefully,” one woman said in video clip posted on social media.
Three protesters have been killed since the protest campaign began – two shot dead in Mandalay on Saturday, and a funeral for the first, a young woman, drew hundreds of people in Naypyitaw on Sunday.
Security forces were deployed in large numbers in the main city of Yangon where many thousands of protesters congregated.
“Everyone is joining this,” said San San Maw, 46, at the Hledan junction in the main city of Yangon, which has become a rallying point for the protests. “We need to come out.”
In a country where dates are seen as auspicious, protesters noted the significance of the date 22.2.2021, comparing it with demonstrations on Aug. 8, 1988 when a previous generation staged anti-military protests which were bloodily suppressed.
The response of security forces this time has been less deadly. While at least three protesters have now been killed, the army has said one policeman died of injuries in protests.
The deaths in Mandalay did not discourage protesters on Sunday, when they turned out again in tens of thousands there and in Yangon and elsewhere.
State-owned media MRTV warned protesters against action on Monday.
“Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life,” it said.
Htet Htet Hlaing, 22, said she was scared and had prayed before joining Monday’s demonstration, but would not be discouraged.
“We don’t want the junta, we want democracy. We want to create our own future,” she said.
Author and historian Thant Myint-U said the window for a peaceful resolution was closing.
“The outcome of the coming weeks will be determined by just two things: the will of an army that’s crushed many protests before and the courage, skill and determination of the protesters (much of society),” he said on Twitter.